Whitmer closes all Michigan schools for three weeks due to coronavirus

classroom

Classrooms will be empty across Michigan for the next three weeks, as the state shuts down schools to try to slow the spread of coronavirus

March 30: Whitmer to end Michigan school year; seniors graduate, others move up
Related: Coronavirus closed Michigan schools for 3 weeks. CDC says that's not long enough

All of Michigan’s public schools will close for three weeks starting Monday, in an effort to thwart the spread of the potentially deadly coronavirus.

Schools will reopen April 6.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer ordered the closings at a late-night Thursday press conference, just hours after the number of confirmed Michigan coronavirus cases grew from two to 12.

“This is a necessary step to protect our kids, our families, and our overall public health,” said Whitmer. 

“I am working with partners across state government to ensure educators, parents, and students have the support they need during this time, and to ensure our children who rely on school for meals have access to food. I know this will be a tough time, but we’re doing this to keep the most people we can safe. I urge everyone to make smart choices during this time and to do everything they can to protect themselves and their families.” 

Michigan State Superintendent Michael Rice said the decision is the “responsible choice that will minimize the risk of exposure for children, educators, and families and mitigate the spread of coronavirus,” 

“This is about protecting the most people in Michigan,” he said.

State officials scrambled Thursday to make arrangements for low-income children to continue to get the meals they receive for free at school - lunch and, at many schools, breakfast - in the interim while school buildings are closed.

In what appeared to be preparation for potential school closings, MDE requested Thursday that the federal government grant a waiver to allow Michigan schools to serve meals off-premises. It’s unclear what that would look like — deliveries to homes, or meal pickup available at the schools.

After the announcement, Detroit Public Schools Community District Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said on Twitter that the state’s largest district is “likely to offer students food over the three weeks. More details to come.”

The three-week closure includes one previously scheduled week of spring break at most schools. The additional 10 days of closure would leave many schools short of the state-required 180 days of school. Administration officials were trying to determine whether they would need to get approval from the Legislature to get a waiver on the 180-day rule.

At least one district is starting its break even earlier and ending it later than what Whitmer ordered. Birmingham Public Schools sent a text to parents following Whitmer's announcement saying it would begin closure on Friday and stay out a full month until Monday April 13, a week longer than what the state ordered. Birmingham students had a previously scheduled spring break the week of April 6. 

In general, children appear to be far less severely affected by the virus. But they can transmit it to more vulnerable people, such as the elderly and those with serious medical conditions.

Social distancing — limiting contact between individuals — is one way to curb the spread of the respiratory illness.

Michigan’s school closures capped a whirlwind 48 hours that saw the NBA season suspended, the NCAA basketball tournament cancelled and movie star Tom Hanks announcing he and his wife had been diagnosed with coronavirus. Nationally, there are now more than 1,600 confirmed cases and 40 deaths.

In a span of eight hours Wednesday, all of Michigan’s 15 public universities closed their classrooms and asked students to leave campus. Classes are continuing online.

Thursday afternoon, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced he was closing all public schools for a “three week spring break” beginning Monday, March 16.

“We have to take this action,” DeWine said on Twitter. “We have to do everything we can to slow down the spread of this virus.”

Schools in Kentucky and Maryland are also closed.

When told of Ohio’s closures Thursday afternoon, Whitmer spokeswoman Tiffany Brown said the governor’s office had no new guidance for schools beyond her mitigation recommendations made Wednesday, which emphasized avoiding gatherings of more than 100 students in one place but stopped short of calling for schools to close.

Seven school districts in Washtenaw County, where Ann Arbor and the University of Michigan are located, announced Thursday afternoon they were closing their buildings and converting to online-only learning beginning March 16.

Washtenaw Intermediate School District Superintendent Scott Menzel said schools were left in a no-win situation — close as a precaution when there is no known community cases or risk waiting too long and having coronavirus spread through the schools.

“How do we know when to close? What risk are we willing to take?” Menzel said. “If you get to 1 percent [infection rate] in a community, it’s too late. As a superintendent, I want to be able to look every parent in the eye and tell them the decisions we made were in the best interests of the health and safety of their student.”

Menzel applauded Whitmer’s action. “I appreciate her courage to take a leadership role to address this growing public health concern,” he said.

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

If you learned something from the story you're reading please consider supporting our work. Your donation allows us to keep our Michigan-focused reporting and analysis free and accessible to all. All donations are voluntary, but for as little as $1 you can become a member of Bridge Club and support freedom of the press in Michigan during a crucial election year.

Pay with VISA Pay with MasterCard Pay with American Express Donate now

Comment Form

Add new comment

Dear Reader: We value your thoughts and criticism on the articles, but insist on civility. Criticizing comments or ideas is welcome, but Bridge won’t tolerate comments that are false or defamatory or that demean, personally attack, spread hate or harmful stereotypes. Violating these standards could result in a ban.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
CAPTCHA
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

Comments

Kevin Grand
Fri, 03/13/2020 - 7:39am

The governor's press conference was sad pathetic joke.

She is parlaying fear politics into face time, since this story has literally bumped just about anything else newsworthy off of the front page. Even The Bridge is guilty of this. 13 stories on its own home page as of this morning and only two which don't deal with Wuhan?!?

And her cheap plug for government mandated paid sick time on Michigan Businesses?

When her husband implements that idea at his practice, be sure to let everyone know. I'd love to hear when he shuts everything down for three weeks and still pays his staff.

Now Michigan Families need to scramble to make child care arrangements for the next three weeks. Not that the governor has to worry about that.

Bernadette
Fri, 03/13/2020 - 12:29pm

We have an adult in the room who is now in a position of having to LEAD, unlike our previous Governor who hid behind his office when the Flint water crisis happened. As a nurse, I sounded the alarm with Snyder's office 5 months before the Governor even spoke to the people of Michigan.

WAKE UP. This covid 19 crisis is going to be the national "Flint lead in water" crisis. I saw this coming when 45 was elected. This administration is lead by a narcissist. Everyone in this administration over the past 2 months when we knew this was coming, had to start by saying what a great president he is!! Well now we are all paying the piper for this lack of leadership and coordination.

The states now have to step up, so cheap criticism is just that. The 45 Sycophants need to look at the reality of this situation. Educate yourself instead of depending upon FOX news to bend the news so 45 does not get upset. For a start look at the statitistics on this pandemic in Italy. Stop bringing your anger to this website. You like so many, want to believe things are different than they are!! This is a national health crisis.

Kevin Grand
Fri, 03/13/2020 - 6:39pm

Good advice Bernadette, now practice what you preach and educate yourself!

"If one assumes that the number of asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic cases is several times as high as the number of reported cases, the case fatality rate may be considerably less than 1%. This suggests that the overall clinical consequences of Covid-19 may ultimately be more akin to those of a severe seasonal influenza (which has a case fatality rate of approximately 0.1%) or a pandemic influenza (similar to those in 1957 and 1968) rather than a disease similar to SARS or MERS, which have had case fatality rates of 9 to 10% and 36%, respectively."

https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMe2002387

The media's over-reporting of this story along with the public's reaction to said reporting is creating a positive feedback loop, making the situation exponentially worse day by day.

Gov. Whitmer won't like the negative reaction she will receive from the public once it realizes the disruption caused by her administration's overreaction was much adieu about nothing once everything is all said and done.

And, if I were in a betting mood this afternoon, I'd say that the media's reputation won't improve either.

Carole
Fri, 03/13/2020 - 8:00am

We're lucky Whitmer is on the job. If Schuette had been elected, being a Trump sycophant, he would have parroted Trump's blathering that COVID-19 is a hoax, fake news, a deep-state conspiracy to hurt Trump, no worse than the flu, and would go away in days. Schuette would have wasted precious weeks doing nothing, allowing the disease to spread to the point where cases overwhelmed the state's medical resources.

Terry
Fri, 03/13/2020 - 12:11pm

Carole, I interpret your post as proof of the lefts turning a health issue into an anti Trump and conservative diatribe. I don't recall Trump ever saying Covid-19 is a hoax, fake news or deep state conspiracy to hurt him. He imposed travel restrictions on China and Europe to try to prevent the spread of it only to be scathed by the left and msm as "racist" and "xenophobic". But at the same time claiming he's inept and doing nothing about it. Two faced talking out both sides of their mouth. The left, deep state and media have tried unsuccessfully a myriad of tactics to remove the President from office. Russia, Mueller Report, Ukraine, impeachment etc etc. Now this virus is being used to try to taint him where all else has failed. Desperation on their part. Wasn't it Rahm Emanuel who said never let a severe crisis go to waste. This is an issue to be dealt with calmly and rationally. NOT a "severe crisis" though the left wants to make it into one. Even California governor Newsom has publicly praised Trumps efforts saying he's doing everything right and providing all necessary assistance. A chicken little attitude will only make things worse. Besides, Al Gore, Greta and AOC say the worlds going to end in 10 years anyway so what's the big deal? I recall Democrat President Roosevelt saying "The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself" Eyes open, no fear.

Terry
Fri, 03/13/2020 - 9:56am

Tempest in a teapot? I was born in and lived in Michigan for 50+ years but now live in Georgia. The closings remind me of standard school policy here. If there's even a CHANCE of flurries the next day schools are cancelled for "the safety of staff and students". If the temps below 30, children are kept in for recess because "sending them outside in the cold is child abuse". The thought of an inch of snow sends people into a panic. Store shelves are stripped of bread, milk etc. Govt officials on TV assure "search and rescue teams are on standby!" I honestly think Georgia students get more snow days than Michigan kids. And it's only snowed once in the 6 years I've lived here and only an inch at that. Precautions can be wise and necessary but they can also be taken to panicked extremes. Are the disruptions that will ensue from closing school really worth it?

Bernadette
Fri, 03/13/2020 - 6:59pm

It may be helpful if you educate yourself, instead of listening to sound bites from Fox News. Fox will tell you what you want to hear. Things must be pretty darn good in Georgia, so why don't you put your feet up, watch Fox and enjoy your MI memories and stay out of MI's business.

Terry
Sat, 03/14/2020 - 9:50am

Hi Bernadette. Is that what they call a female Sanders supporters nowadays? I want to thank you for your kind suggestions. Being retired I have ample time to "educate myself" using a wide variety of sources. Some informative and reliable and actual journalism. But sadly most are just blatant leftist propaganda devoid of any standards of impartiality. Plus I have the benefit of years of experience in sorting out actual facts from bs. You mention Fox News several times. Claiming they "tell me what I want to hear". What I want to hear is the truth! And Fox consistently provides that in comparison to the non stop spin, lies and cover ups delivered by most msm outlets and their endless "orange man bad!" message. It's been said that if you repeat a lie often and long enough people start to believe it. That seems to be their strategy and it seems to work on lazy weak minded people who posses little discernment. Perhaps you might consider giving Tucker Carlson and Mark Levin a view. It might change your perspective and views a little. Finally I do enjoy my fond MI memories! I have a deep love and concern for her. My son still lives there in TC. I have every right to stay informed on and "educated" on what's happening there. I reject your demand that I stay out of Michigans "business".

Elwyn
Fri, 03/13/2020 - 10:50am

So, why effective Monday 3/16? Why not immediately? Is it safe Friday but not Monday?

Mike Watza
Fri, 03/13/2020 - 11:34am

An interesting ancillary issue here is that as we shutter various institutions, schools and workplaces, and many American individuals and organizations start trying to do various forms of work over the internet, from remote locations in particular, it will quickly become obvious to most, that our national access to the internet is woefully inadequate and grossly overpriced. It is my hope that this experience will push all of us to demand that our elected leaders in State Capitols and Washington DC stop taking the huge dollars offered by the communications industry - designed to keep them quiet on the subject - and demand the buildout of the information superhighway via immediate installation of ubiquitous fiber. It is the obvious answer to the problem we are all about to encounter, much as Eisenhower did with the Freeway system built in the 50’s. Our Global competitors have already done it for the most part. Meanwhile, we in the US are laboring on two track gravel information "roads" while being charged ridiculous “tolls” by contrast.
Mike Watza
Telecom Counsel PROTEC

denise pyle
Sun, 03/15/2020 - 3:29pm

the way its spreading in michigan they may be shut down for longer

MaryJ
Tue, 03/17/2020 - 8:19am

What about daycare they are closing an still asking us to pay when , we are been sent home from work what are you going to do about that? we getting a pay cut do to hours been cut and less money .

Stephanie Williams
Sun, 03/22/2020 - 11:25am

I feel the schools are cleaner that anybody's house the way they had us sanitizing the schools everything has been washed down covered up and sprayed